As a WordPress design and optimization firm, it has been amazing to watch the way that people view WordPress change over the years. I recall the early days when still considering using the B2 platform, MoveableType was still a huge player, and Typepad was not even a thought process. In those days making a quality site was not an easy job. To be perfectly honest, I am glad those days are over. WordPress has evolved to where its no longer a “blog” or “blogging” platform, its a true CMS.
When designing a CMS website many people think first of Drupal or Joomla in the open source market, or they consider Expression Engine, Modx, DotNet Nuke in the paid market (yes, you can get them free I know). People can discount WordPress as a CMS and as a true platform for their design. WordPress today is far easier then even the old mainstays in the CMS market like Joomla and Drupal. WordPress is an active community of plugins, extensions and theme developers.
If you desire a simple, basic website and you have little to no php, html or css coding experience, WordPress can be the right solution for you. All that is needed is a desire to learn, some of your time and basic computer skills. The rest is taken care of by the community. Here are a few ways this can be done.
Site: Look & Feel (aka THEME)
The look of your site could be the most crucial thing; if your site doesn’t look good, if its not laid out well for visitors then you won’t garner long-term business. This is where theme designs come in. Themes are WordPress website designs that you can install in just a couple of clicks, and can be changed easily. When you are reviewing themes there are two options: Commercial (paid) or Community (free). Some people may think that paying for a theme is against the spirit of open source community (GPL). Although this argument is understandable, I can also see the other side which is that you need to pay for a professionals time, talent and energy. I am personally and professionally a huge fan of commercial themes. At times I have suggested to clients that they choose a template as a base look and feel, then we can modify it to conform with their needs. Here are some of the preferred commercial theme vendors we recommend:
- StudioPress (our site is based on the executive theme)
- AgentPress (real estate specific)
- Theme Forest
- Gorilla Themes
- Aloha Themes
- Elegant Themes
As you can see from the short list of Premium Commercial Theme providers the choices are many, and the costs are quite reasonable. Another benefit of using a premium theme is the support. I have found StudioPress to be the TOP in support after sale, with both iThemes and WooThemes following a close second. All of these premium providers have dedicated support forums, and staff that allow them to offer additional services which can prove to be worth more than the cost of the theme alone.
Consider using a community theme, and there are currently over 1,100 themes at the WordPress website (http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/) that you can download for free. Some are even released by premium theme providers. This is how many of the premium theme makers give back to the community that they love.
Making Your Website Into What You Want (PLUGINS)
After determining the look and feel of your site, consider the function of the site. This is where the plugin community comes into play. Currently there are over 8,000 plugins listed on the WordPress website (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins). Think of any function that you want, and there is a plugin for it. I would like to highlight a couple of plugins that I have fallen in love with, and are really the cream of the crop:
- e-Commerce (build a store)
- Shopp (another commerce plugin)
- Gravity Forms (easy forms mangement)
- Joost De Valk (Yoast) – Collection of Plugins
- Caffinated (auto feed of content)
Extending your WordPress website can be very easy, and there are many plugins that can help you with the SEO aspects of your site.
Getting a website up and running that is both good looking, and has the functions that you need can be relatively simple. The question to ask is “what do I do now?” Here are the best “next” steps you should do. Remember that the steps below assume you have your own hosting account. If you do not, its imperative that you find a quality host. We HIGHLY suggest WPwebhost who are WordPress EXPERTS and have one of the best support teams on the planet.
- Download WordPress
- Choose a Theme (I suggest studiopress)
- Learn Some Tips and Tricks
- Install some plugins
If you get into the process and find that it is more complicated than you thought it might be, take a step back and be sure you contact a local WordPress Design firm who can help you. You will find that many firms will actually help you for free in a limited fashion. In my experience, WordPress design firms can be committed to the WordPress community-at-large and would enjoy helping you. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. If you would like to work with Digital Pure to develop a custom website, please contact us today for more information and a quote.